Capsule Review: Justice League Heroes

(A note on platforms - this game came out for several very different systems. I played it on the PSP, which aside from control and graphical differences I understand is basically the same as the Xbox and PS2 versions, while the DS version has similar mechanics but a different story and implementation. There is also a related game on the GBA called Justice League Heroes: The Flash.)

A brawler with level-up mechanics starring the Justice League. Take control of characters such as Superman, Batman, and several others to explore levels, find collectibles, and defeat enemies and bosses. In each mission, you have two heroes and can switch control at any time, with the other left to the AI. The game can also be played in co-op with each player controlling one hero. Level up and spend your accumulated collectibles to improve your heroes and unlock new abilities, characters, and costumes.

The PSP version that I played is weirdly no-frills in some ways. The camera cannot be controlled by the player, presumably due to the PSP having only one analog stick, making it difficult to track enemies while repositioning yourself which is especially important in boss fights. There’s also no map, no subtitles (on a handheld game! I cannot hear the dialog when playing on the train), or ability to save after beating a level/boss (you have to play the first few minutes of the next level and find a save point there). Also, for some reason, the PlayStation TV will download and install this game but refuse to actually play it.

Some of the combat mechanics feel a bit unpolished and sometimes unfair. Attacks that knock you down result in a pretty slow getting-back-up animation with no additional mercy invincibility, which often gives enemies time to line up their next attack - so if you’re unlucky, you can get stunlocked and slowly killed with no recourse. The partner AI is pretty useless but I bet it’d be fun in co-op - especially since the heroes have an interesting variety of abilities that you can customize even further by allocating skill points and applying “boosts” to enhance powers in specific ways. You can, for example, turn Superman into a tank and Zatanna into a ranged DPSer, but this is kind of useless without another human to play your partner in a way that actually takes advantage of the setup.

Although I wish some aspects of the game had gotten more polish (at least on PSP) I had a good time playing as the Justice League and beating up robots. What ultimately stopped me was the lack of map and camera control with nonlinear levels and my own poor sense of direction - trying to keep track of where I was going and where I had been was too stressful to be fun, especially once I got to a level set in a H.I.V.E. base and kept getting turned around in its samey honeycomb layout. I expect the game is more fun on PS2/Xbox where you can steer the camera, especially if you have a friend to play with.

I Stopped Playing When: After dealing with a boss fight where I couldn’t keep the boss on-screen due to the lack of camera control on PSP, I kept getting lost in the H.I.V.E. level and the inconveniences had piled up to the point where the game wasn’t fun anymore.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.